Even without help, an individual’s profile of skills and behaviours is likely to change over time, and in adulthood some difficulties may become less severe or apparent. However, key symptoms and difficulties typically persist and may even become more marked, with an enduring impact on the person’s lifestyle and well-being. It is generally believed that identifying autism and intervening as early as possible is most likely to have a beneficial effect (Howlin et al., 2009). An intervention is a technique or procedure to support and help children or adults with autism to engage with others and to thrive, for instance by helping a non-verbal person to communicate, or a highly anxious person to reduce their anxiety. While this means adapting to the neurotypical world, it is equally important that the neurotypical world becomes more accepting and tolerant of autistic behaviour, and better adapted to autistic needs. Organisations like the National Autistic Society (NAS) are active in promoting this goal. You will read more in Week 8.
A range of interventions has been developed, targeted at different problems and different groups. Many of these interventions are for children, especially those with low-functioning autism including marked language and intellectual disabilities, and are designed for use in home and educational settings. Although individuals with high-functioning autism or Asperger syndrome have better language and intellectual skills, they may face challenges in interacting, behaving flexibly, and in other everyday skills, which also call for support throughout life. Some interventions lend themselves well to supporting these more able groups, and also the needs of adults.